We had a lot of fun looking up some odd uses for GPS tracking device. So, we looked a little further and found some more examples of the practical application of GPS trackers outside of securing your car, motorcycle or truck. The versatility of GPS tracking devices continues to amaze us.
Nativity Scene Security
When you hear “Christmas” you probably think of evergreen trees, Santa Clause, the dread / joy of having to go shopping for hours on end to find the perfect gift, but most importantly, it's the celebration of the birth of Christ.
Thieves in Franklin, Indiana, USA, were also keen on celebrating the occasion, as a popular target is the baby Jesus figure from the large nativity scene set up at the Indiana Masonic Home. After the figure was stolen and returned in early December 2014, BrickHouse Security loaned the care home and other churches and non-profit organisations GPS trackers for their baby Jesus.
The case in Indiana is only one out of many thefts. Every year, nativity scenes and particularly the baby Jesus figure is a sought-after target by thieves. Simply Google “GPS Baby Jesus” and you’ll find dozens of stories.
Rats and vermin are a constant issue facing large cities. To observe and control rat populations, researchers use the capture, mark, recapture method to calculate how large rat populations are and roughly track their movements. However, this method is time-consuming and can only provide rough estimates.
Between September 2016 to December 2016, researchers in Vancouver, Canada, experimented a new method to observe urban rat populations. They captured 14 adult Norway rats (brown rats), placed small GPS trackers on them with a veterinary adhesive and released them. The aim of the study was to develop a more accurate method to track rat movement.
While the study was inconclusive, as most of the trackers were either damaged or lost, and GPS signals were interfered by the urban landscape or by the rats burrowing underground, it’s a step forward in developing a newer, more efficient method of monitoring rats in major cities.
No rats were harmed for the duration of the experiment.
Poor sharks. Ever since Jaws hit cinemas in 1975, sharks have been labelled as monstrous creatures of the deep. However, statistically, you’re more likely to die from falling out of bed or a vending machine falling on you than a shark attack.
To keep tabs on the whereabout of sharks, the sea-based research team called OCEARCH placed GPS trackers on dozens of sharks. The data collected by the trackers are then made available for researchers studying sharks and aids in conservation efforts. This data is also useful for warning lifeguards whether a shark is approaching the shore, so that the beach can be cleared instantly.
OCEARCH has been operational since 2012 and as of April 2017, they have led 28 worldwide expeditions. In 2016, OCEARCH made their data available to the public. You can even track the movements of these sharks yourself by visiting ocearch.org.
Fitness App Reveals Military Base Locations
This case is mostly accidental. In early 2018, it was discovered that the fitness app Strava was revealing the locations of military bases around the world. Strava touts itself as “the social network for athletes” which allows users to track their performance and compare their results with other users. The app can also track its subscribers through their phone’s GPS and generate a “heat map” of where its users have been around the world.
However, the app was also being used by military personnel serving overseas. While a quick jog along the perimeter of the base may seem like a good idea, what Strava was doing was drawing a map of the complex they were running in. This poses a high security risk and could potentially reveal secret bases and show troop movement. Of course, Strava does have an option to opt out of being tracked, but evidently these personnel forgot.
The likeness of baby Jesus, city rats, great white sharks and accidentally revealing military bases. GPS tracking continues to prove itself as a useful tool in theft prevention, scientific research, but also a potential security issue facing military personnel.